Summary: Chapters 14 & 15

Lee Scoresby and John Parry are sailing in the skies of the world of Ci’gazze, with forces from the Church in hot pursuit. The Church’s agents, who travel in zeppelins, gain on Lee’s balloon. Lee has to make a crash landing and abandon the balloon. Parry uses magic to bring down three of the four zeppelins that are pursuing them. Lee agrees to keep the soldiers in the fourth zeppelin at bay while Parry escapes to find the knife bearer. Lee holds the soldiers off with the help of his daemon, Hester, and Parry escapes, but Lee and Hester are killed. Before they die, they call out to Serafina Pekkala for help. Serafina leaves Will and Lyra in the care of her witches and goes to find Lee. Will explains that he knows he has to find his father because his mother always told him that he would take up his father’s mantle. One of the witches, Lena Feldt, sees people in the distance and goes to investigate.

Lena arrives at a camp and finds Mrs. Coulter and Lord Boreal. Mrs. Coulter, who has learned how to control the specters, uses one to capture Lena Feldt’s daemon and torture Lena. Mrs. Coulter forces Lena to tell her what she knows about Lyra. Lena says that Lyra is the new Eve and that she will cause a new fall from grace. Mrs. Coulter decides she has to kill Lyra rather than allow the second Fall. She kills Lena and Lord Boreal and summons the specters.

Up the mountain, Will can’t sleep, so he goes for a walk. In the darkness, Will runs into a man. Will and the man fight, and the man realizes that Will is the knife bearer. The man is John Parry. He cures Will’s wound and says that Will has to bring the knife to Lord Asriel. The knife, he says, is the one weapon that can kill God. Will tries to give the knife to Parry, but he refuses it, saying that the knife belongs to Will. He says it is in Will’s nature to be a fighter, and Will can’t deny his own nature. Parry lights a lamp so he can see Will. Just as Will realizes that he is looking at his father, a witch who had been in love with Parry kills him and then herself. Will takes his father’s cloak and leaves to find Lyra.

As Will heads toward the camp, he meets two angels who urge him to go with them to Lord Asriel. They were watching over Parry to make sure that he gave Will his message. Will says that before he does anything he has to go back to Lyra. When he returns to the camp, Will sees that Mrs. Coulter and her army of specters have already attacked. The witches are all dead and Lyra is gone. She has left her alethiometer behind. The angels try to get Will to forget Lyra and come with them to Lord Asriel. They want Will to bring the subtle knife so that Will and Lord Asriel can use it against God. Will stares at Lyra’s knapsack, which contains the alethiometer, unable to decide what to do.

Analysis: Chapters 14 & 15

There are benefits to having a daemon, but there are also some obvious downsides. Because daemons are the physical incarnation of a person’s soul, their existence means that people’s souls are vulnerable to attack. This means, for example, that even though Lena Feldt is well hidden, her inattentive daemon leaves her vulnerable to Mrs. Coulter’s spectral forces. Touching another person’s daemon is a great taboo in Lyra’s world, precisely because the daemons are so vulnerable. In The Golden Compass, Lyra experiences an appalling shock when a man in Bolvanger grabs Pantalaimon.

Relations with one’s daemon vary depending on the person in question. For example, like the witches and their daemons, John Parry can exist far apart from his daemon, Sayan Kötör. Characters like these, who possess some sort of magic or extraordinary power, are able survive far away from their own souls.

In this part of the novel, Lena Feldt tells Mrs. Coulter that Lyra is the new Eve. As in the Book of Genesis and in Paradise Lost, Eve will cause humanity to fall again. Mrs. Coulter, who is power-mad and on the side of the Church, will do whatever she can to stop Lyra from fulfilling this destiny. But in Pullman’s fictional world, a second Fall is actually a desirable outcome. The Church calls the result of the first Fall sin, but Pullman considers the result consciousness and choice. Pullman portrays the first Fall as the beginning of knowledge and true humanity. A new Fall would not mean not sin and darkness, but freedom from the repressive Church.

John Parry’s insistence that Will not deny his nature sounds like an argument that destiny does exist and Will has no choice but to fight. This seems at odds with Pullman’s enthusiasm for choice and free will, as does the fact that several characters consider Lyra fated to be the new Eve. This apparent contradiction is left unexplained at this time.

We also know, from Will’s brief and painful conversation with his father and from the angels’ insistence that Lord Asriel needs Will’s knife, that the subtle knife is probably the Æsahættr that Ruta Skadi overheard the cliff ghasts talking about. It is not just useful for getting between worlds and for keeping specters away. It is the one thing that can kill God, which is why the rebel angels want it so badly. John also tells Will that the two sides now aligning for battle have been fighting since humanity came into existence. God’s side demands submission and obedience from its opponents, while Satan’s side wants to increase the knowledge and enlightenment of human beings.

The witch who kills John Parry and herself is, to Will, inexplicable. The passion and fury that love has inspired in her don’t make sense to him. Love doesn’t strike him as something worth killing and dying for. Despite his growing friendship with Lyra, Will has not yet left his childhood innocence behind, and he has no real understanding of sexual passion.

Will’s mother said that one day Will would take up his father’s mantle. After his father dies, Will literally takes up his mantle (mantle is another word for cloak). In a symbolic sense, Will takes up his father’s mantle as a fighter.